I used to suck at romantic relationships. For a plethora of reasons (this is a blog, not a book), I knew they were doomed from the start. Everything always felt like a lot of work, more than any other type of relationship or job I’d ever had. For example, if someone says, “You’re too healthy for me,” it’s a great time to run the other way. You were just given an out and it doesn’t matter how fun or cute he is, the shine is gonna wear off that apple.
Seriously, when given an out like that, run. Don’t bother to lace up the sneakers or ask questions, just run.
On some level, I suppose my acceptance of the world’s crappiest relationships was that I was taught that “It could always be worse.” Looking back, that seems like the guilty religious spin on looking on the bright side. If I complained about something, I was told I should be grateful for what I had. In most circumstances, it’s a good perspective: our family was way ahead of #firstworldproblems.
The problem was that when it came to romantic relationships, what I had simply wasn’t worth the trouble.
When your mindset is that it could always be worse, you’re okay with a partner who takes advantage of you because he doesn’t outright steal from you. You’re okay with someone who yells at you because he doesn’t hit you. You’re okay with someone who hits you because it doesn’t happen all the time.
Rinse and repeat.
Whatever level of comfort or discomfort you’ve accustomed yourself to, nothing seems too terrible when you remember it could always be worse.
A therapist told me it was a bullshit attitude years ago. I knew it was true, but I needed more space to accept the truth bomb she dropped on me. I justified a relationship by saying, “If someone is going to drive me crazy, I’d rather it be him.”
(Insert cringe or eye roll, depending on current mood.)
If feeling morally, spiritually, and almost financially bankrupt equals crazy, he was fit for the task.
My favorite part of a relationship was the end. The bullshit would cease and I’d get my life back. I loved the first trips to the grocery store where I’d only buy what I wanted and not have to catch hell for buying Miracle Whip instead of mayo. I loved the feeling of freedom at my own home instead of pulling up and feeling defeated and gross upon seeing the vehicle of the other person parked out front. I loved not having to worry about anyone’s treatment bill or work release fee. I loved not being criticized for how I dressed or cooked or shaved my legs. I loved not being accused of loving the dog more than I loved him.
Ex2 once posed the question of who I would help first if we were on a sinking ship, him or the dog?
The only place you should ask questions you already know the answers to is a courtroom, dude.
It must be all the independence and freedom talk about July 4th that stirred all this up, because I’m experiencing something new with my current relationship: I feel independent. I don’t feel manipulated or controlled in the least. I feel truer to myself than any other point in my life. Be a grown-up, self-actualizing human and you’ll find a grown-up, self-actualizing human.
I giggled as I typed that tiny, simple-sounding sentence, knowing the almost 40 years of living packed into it, knowing the 20 year-old version of myself would have told me to f@ck off.
Be a grown-up, self-actualizing human. And get a dog. Always get a dog.